In recognition of the importance of Ducati’s yet-to-be-unveiled 1199 Panigale, we decided to throw what we know about it into a 3-D virtual mixer and have artist Mark Tome spit out what we think it’ll look like.
The main talking point that is garnering so much interest is its frame — or rather lack thereof. Like Ducati’s MotoGP bike, the new, 1199cc V-Twin will sport a semi-monocoque chassis, which does away with a traditional frame and uses the engine as a stressed member to which the suspension is attached. The front fork will bolt to an aluminum casting in the steering-head area, which is then fastened to the engine, while the single-sided swingarm pivots inside the engine’s crankcase. The main benefit here is a significant reduction in weight.
This angle gives a clear view of the nearly-horizontal shock unit, which hinges from the rear cylinder. Swingarm length is also reported to be substantially longer than the 1198. This should provide better stability mid-corner and reduce the tendency to wheelie.
Judging from the spy photos we’ve seen, the bike is going to be very compact. We see a rather lengthy swingarm which will likely be longer than the 19.3-inch unit on the 1198. This should aid in traction and cornering stability. Educated estimates put the wheelbase under 56 inches. The lines and bodywork of the 1199 Panigale are said to be the result of countless hours in the wind tunnel.
The front of the 1199 Panigale borrows many styling cues from the 1198, but its bodywork is said to be the result of numerous hours in the wind tunnel, with each crease, bend or opening having a specific purpose in the performance of the machine.
In order to maintain a minimal wheelbase, and to prevent the front tire from smacking the front cylinder under heavy braking, the 90-degree Twin will be tilted rearwards 10 degrees, positioning it in more of a “V” fashion rather than the traditional “L” manner with which Ducatisti are familiar.
Spy photos also suggest the 1199 has a large rear tire. A little bird tells us to expect a 200/55-17 from Pirelli.
Finally, you’ll notice the traditional under-tail exhaust is gone, replaced instead by underbelly exhausts exiting on each side of the bike. Besides looking cool, the main benefit here is mass centralization. No more toasted butt, either.
Ducati is going completely radical with the new 1199 Panigale, with little consideration to the superbikes that came before it. Case in point is the snubby tail section. The undertail exhaust layout first made famous by the 916 is no more — exhaust gasses now exit via underbelly pipes.
So far, prototype testing of the new 1199 Panigale has been conducted at the Autodromo del Mugello with factory test riders, World Superstock rider Danilo Petrucci, and Ducati’s favorite son, Troy Bayliss. Two versions of the machine — a base model and an up-spec (possibly an R or S variant, or even a Superstock-spec race bike) version — are being tested, the latter distinguishable by its Öhlins suspension.
The Ducati 1199 Panigale may not be the first motorcycle to sport a frameless design, but Ducati is definitely the largest manufacturer to put it in full production. Initial testing with prototype models seems positive, with Ducati's favorite son, Troy Bayliss, waxing poetic about it on his Twitter feed.
Bayliss followed up with further testing at Mugello earlier this week, and he allayed concerns about the worthiness of the aluminum monocoque frame by tweeting, “Anyone worried about the new Ducati superbike need not. Matched my best time ever in the arvo (presumably afternoon) when (the) track is a bit slower. Still early, but in street form nothing will come close.” Bayliss finished the Mugello test with a best lap of 1:51.3, a full half-second quicker than he went on the 1198.
As impressive as the new model appears to be on track, it’s no surprise that Ducati is going racing with the new bike right away. The 1199 Panigale will first compete next year in the 2012 FIM World Superstock championship with riders yet to be named (Petrucci seems like a natural choice for one of the seats), but a full assault on the World Superbike stage will have to wait until the following year. This allows the factory an extra year to develop the Panigale for the open rules of Superbike racing, while privateers and other teams currently running the 1198 can still compete with the assistance of Ducati engineers... and save up to buy what is shaping up to be the best thing since sliced ciabatta.
Many more details about the 1199 Panigale will be revealed November 7 during the EICMA trade show in Milan, Italy. Stay tuned for news about the sportbike world’s most exciting new model of 2012.
The 1199’s innovative chassis is expected to result in a weight reduction of some 20 pounds compared to its predecessor. Its wet weight could come as low as 400 pounds.